By Karine Kalantarian
Colleagues of a pro-government Armenian parliament deputy alleged on Thursday that he was beaten up in police custody earlier this week after a verbal argument with the Yerevan police chief, Ashot Gizirian.
Several lawmakers, including the chairman of a key parliament committee, said Gevorg Hakobian complained to them that he was insulted by Gizirian by phone and responded in a similar manner on Tuesday before being detained by police officers later in the day together with a former Armenian transport minister. Hakobian, who is affiliated with the pro-government Miasnutyun faction has kept a low profile in the National Assembly, was said to have spent five hours in the city’s police headquarters where he was allegedly attacked by Gizirian and other senior officers.
The interior ministry denied the allegations. The ministry spokesman, Artak Vartazarian, told RFE/RL that Hakobian was detained by traffic police on suspicion of drunken driving but did not face any mistreatment. Vartazarian said alcohol tests confirmed that the parliamentarian was drunk.
Still, Victor Dallakian, who heads the parliament committee on legal affairs, appeared to trust his colleague’s accounts. “The deputy has met with the country’s prime minister and the latter promised to take serious steps in connection with that illegality,” Dallakian told reporters.
He said some of the parliament’s 131 members, who enjoy immunity from prosecution under Armenian law, might sign an appeal to President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian demanding that the police chief be dismissed from his post.
However, the leader of the Miasnutyun faction and a close ally of Markarian, Galust Sahakian, insisted that “nothing serious” happened on Tuesday and that no action should be taken by the deputies.
Meanwhile, Hakobian himself has lodged no written complaints to the authorities so far. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Torture and other forms of mistreatment in detention is commonplace in Armenia. International human rights groups regard it as the most widespread form of human rights abuses in the country. Although the authorities have repeatedly pledged to tackle the problem, there have been no major official inquiries yet into reported cases of police brutality.